A walk in the park is more commonly associated with a leisurely day out than a stigma-busting message about black fatherhood.
But three friends sent just such a message while taking their infant children for a stroll through Richmond Park last weekend, prompting hundreds of social media users to show their support with the hashtag #BlackDadMagic.
Strangers stopped to compliment Kester Charles-Hinds and Patrick Miller, both 28, and Rolando Thomas, 27, as they pushed along their children in buggies.
Mr Thomas, an implementation analyst and father of 22-month-old Remaeya, described how they saw a woman smiling at them as they approached a picnic area: “She said, ‘this is lovely to see’.”
The dads decided to capture the moment in a picture later shared on Instagram after the initial encounter was followed by more looks, smiles and compliments from strangers.
Mr Charles-Hinds, a biomedical scientist from Ashford, Kent, and father of five-month-old Zion, accompanied his post with a statement that read: “I was surprised by the number of compliments we had and people saying, ‘they’ve never seen this before’.
“For various reasons, media of all types collectively offer a distorted representation of the lives and reality of black males”.
Mr Thomas, who works in finance, said: “We may physically fit a stereotype but it doesn’t mean that we have to conform to it. And what is great is that our actions on Sunday are a direct reflection of that.”
The online response means a lot to the three dads, who are passionate about positive representation, celebrating fatherhood and leading by example.
The #BlackDadMagic hashtag that accompanied the social media post has been used nearly 550 times on Instagram and is a nod to the popular #BlackGirlMagic movement, which was created in 2013 to celebrate black women.
#BlackGirlMagic has been used nearly 16.5 million times on Instagram, so the dad version has some way to go before it reaches the same level of recognition – but the movement is growing.
Mr Thomas said: “A friend commented that he was out on the train with his daughter and another father came past him and just shook his hand and said ‘this is good to see’. There is a wave, I think – an underlying wave of fathers appreciating other fathers.”
Mr Miller, an events management student and freelance graphic designer, is keen to encourage men to keep up the conversation.
He was accompanied on Sunday by his eight-month-old daughter Raenya-Rose, but lost his first child Jahziah in 2018.
Mr Miller described Jahziah, who was born with a congenital condition, as his best friend and the reason for the positive attitude he has in life.
He rebranded his business after his death, naming it JahJah’s World Entertainment in his memory.
His Twitter post about the day at the park read: “Being in my child’s life is a NORMAL everyday thing not a chore, wake up cuddle my daughter give her kisses and provide. Meeting up with my bros to talk about life & parenting was uplifting.”
The post led one Twitter user to comment: “Where you guys meeting up again. I’m a young father too.”
Buoyed by the response of the events over the weekend, Mr Miller may continue the conversation of #BlackdadMagic on his entertainment platform by filming a ‘vlog’ alongside Mr Thomas and Mr Charles-Hinds.